Monday, 31 March 2014

pattern tracing paper (on the cheap)

Pssst, want to know a secret? I'm a bit of a cheapskate when it comes to tracing out my sewing patterns.

I have actually never cut a sewing pattern in my life. I'm a tracer all the way. It means I never have to buy a pattern more than once (unless I lose it!) and I can use every size in the pattern if I want to.

This is fantastic for kids patterns, because kids grow so fast you usually need to make more than just one pattern size. For some of my favourite patterns I have actually made every single size available on the pattern. The original pattern is still in great shape though, because after tracing, it can be carefully stored back in its packaging. You can really get your money's worth out of a pattern.

Look, I know there are all kinds of fancy tracing papers out there built specifically for the job. They might be great too. But the truth is, I just haven't tried any of them (well not yet, anyway!). The reason being: I like to save my money for nice patterns and fabric!

So what is my cheapskate solution?
Supermarket brand greaseproof paper. You find it in the sandwich wrapping section in the supermarket and it costs about $1.50 per roll. With 30 metres per roll, you can get bucketloads of patterns out of it.

It only comes in one width though, which is sometimes too narrow for the pattern piece. So what do I do if the pattern piece is too wide for the paper? Sticky tape. Yep, I'm super technical like that. I just sticky tape two pieces of paper together (on the shiny side, while I mark on the matte side).

I must have traced hundreds of patterns out this way and it works a treat. It's particularly useful if I mess up when I'm tracing or cutting the tracing, because I can simply rip another piece of paper off my roll and just go again (after chucking the dud tracing in the recycling bin). It's also really easy to get your hands on, as pretty much every supermarket stocks it.

My other favourite tracing tools (apart from the paper and sticky tape)?
A 2B pencil. It helps all those markings show up a little darker and makes it easier to transfer later on. Oh and a cup of tea and some dark chocolate. Can't trace without those!

So what do you guys trace your patterns on? Am I missing out on something great by using my cheapie paper?

Sunday, 30 March 2014

autumn garden week 3

Isn't is amazing what a week of rain can do? The garden is growing like crazy now we've finally had some decent downpours. I love not having to water anything! Makes such a change to the last few months, which have been so dry. Such a great start to the growing season.

So the garden update week 3:

It's starting to look green out there! See week 1 and week 2 if you want to compare. The snow peas are just starting to climb up their fencing and the lettuces and coming along nicely. I think a few more weeks and we will be able to start picking the lettuces.

The only problem with rain and all day drizzle is it brings out the slugs, which are everywhere at the moment. I am picking them off, but there are so many I think I'm facing a losing battle.

They're sneaky those slugs. They've got secret hiding places in the garlic chives, basil and between the pak choy leaves. During the day they hide out, but come night time it's feast time. My little seedlings are looking a bit like swiss cheese. They seem to love the asian greens the most!

Despite the slugs, it's been a fantastic week in the garden. Couldn't be happier about the rain!

Friday, 28 March 2014

mushrooming in the rain

We've had some fantastic rain this week. Rain has been scarce in the past few months and everything has been suffering. But this week, well you can almost hear the plants breathing a sigh of relief!

The garden seems to be growing overnight. And one of my favourite things about rain after a dry spell? Mushrooms. Real field mushrooms! It's like a fairyland out there with mushrooms and toadstools popping up all over the place. Some of them are the prettiest things you've ever seen.

Just to be clear these pictures are not all the same type of mushroom. We do not eat the mushrooms/toadstools in the above pictures or any fungi growing out of wood. The mushrooms pictured above are most likely poisonous. I just thought they were so pretty, that I couldn't resist snapping some pictures of them.

I don't advise anyone to go mushrooming unless you are 100% sure of what you are picking. Most mushrooms are not edible. Mushroom poisoning is extremely serious. If you get it wrong, it can prove fatal and the rule in mushrooming is, when in doubt don't touch it.

You don't need to eat mushrooms to enjoy their beauty though! It's amazing how they can magically transport you back to your childhood. When your nose was pressed to the pages of an Enid Blyton book, dreaming of enchanted forests filled with pixies, brownies and golden haired fairies.

It's not hard to imagine important gatherings happening among the fairy folk when you see massive clusters of them pop up overnight out of nowhere.

Oh Autumn, you are a wonderful time of the year!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

the autumn shift

I can really feel the days getting shorter at the moment. Yet why is it when the days gets shorter, there always seems to be more to do? It's strange how that works out isn't it.

The week has flown by here. Early starts, late nights. We had the most beautiful sunrise this morning, which I guess is one of the up sides to getting up in the dark. You get to see the sun wake each day. We're even managing to get some rain which is so needed. The garden is loving it.

The leaves on the trees might still be green, but autumn is beginning to show its face. A small hint of the change that is to come. Right now the days remain hot, but the nights are finally that little bit cooler. Just enough to add an extra blanket to the beds. Firewood is starting to play on my mind. We will have to start collecting it in the next month, so we are ready for winter. Winter clothes for the children need to be bumped up on The List as well.

Autumn is definitely my favourite season. Magical long sunsets, that seem to go on and on. Days with a warm glow, reflected off golden leaves. Windows closed earlier in the day as nights become crisp. Bedsocks and flannel pjs dug out of forgotten drawers along with a snuggly blanket and a nice warm cup of tea.

It's almost here, but not quite. We're at the in-between.

There's a hungry gap going on with the garden at the moment. It'll be a month or more before we have much that's ready to eat out there. The only thing I've got plenty of is asian greens and herbs and we are eating them everyway we can. I've even become a green smoothie person! I never thought I'd see the day. Each morning I blitz a bunch of greens up in my blender along with some fruit and a spoonful of manuka honey. Amazingly they do make you feel good!

The kitchen is an endlessly busy place. This week I've been making big batches of lunchbox goodies for the kids. Healthy muffins and mini quiches, which I cooked up in some of the novelty mini cake tins I have floating around. They've been a big hit with the kids. Teddy bear and love heart quiches? Yes please! When I do a big batch like this I just put them in the freezer. When I need them for the lunchboxes, just pull them out the night before and let them defrost in the fridge.

Also some pizza making going on. I dream of a woodfired oven to cook it in, especially on cold nights, but for now we do it on the Weber. It still comes up pretty good.

So are you feeling the autumn shift yet? Are the leaves turning golden where you are, or are you still in-between like us?

Monday, 24 March 2014

tawny frogmouths (also known as my neighbours)

So I thought you might like to be introduced to some of my neighbours.

These guys literally live outside my door, in a palm tree that brushes up against my verandah. I believe they are Tawny Frogmouths and not the extremely rare Marbled Frogmouths (which are sometimes found around these parts). The first time I saw them, I was blown away. They were within arms reach of me, yet had no fear at all. These incredible looking birds sleep all day, totally oblivious to my whirlwind children and the noise they make. Occasionally they open their eyes for a second, but barely ruffle a feather before dozing off again. They like to rest in the exact same place every day. Sometimes you'll wonder if they've moved at all in weeks!

Then as night falls, their eyes open up. Those magnificent orangey, yellow eyes that lock on you with their piercing gaze. They puff out their feathers as they prepare to go hunting for insects, frogs or other tasty things that might be on the menu that night.

What's most amazing is they have apparently been here for years, as a pair. They're monogamous you see. Tawny Frogmouths couple off and stay with each other literally till death do they part. They both take turns to sit on the eggs, look after the nest and raise the chicks. How lovely is that?

So I always like to keep an eye out for them and make sure they're both OK. Sometimes they leave our place for a few months, but they always return to this same little nook in the palm tree that is their home.

I am so grateful they let us share it.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

autumn garden week 2

When I first planted my garden I had so much fun documenting its progress, I thought it would be nice to do it again!

Throughout autumn I'm hoping to get out there at least once a fortnight, and take some snaps to keep a track of how everything is growing. The autumn garden is a lot slower than the spring garden, so the changes are likely to be a little less dramatic at this time of year.

I don't know about you, but I really love to look back at how my garden went over the season. Sometimes memories can get a little hazy, but those pictures, well they never lie do they! When you look back on the photos you get a really good sense of what did well and what didn't. It's also really useful for when you're planning next year's garden. In the past couple of years I've been using my pictures and garden notes as a reminder of how long certain plants took to grow, what pests I had to battle, what worked and what didn't. I also really love knowing exactly how long it takes for those seeds to turn into a harvest.

My plan is to put the pictures and garden notes up here on the blog, as well as posting them over on Rhonda's pinterest page. Anyone who wants to join in, feel free to jump on board and start sharing the progress of your garden! I know I'd love to see how everyone's gardens are coming along.

So here it is, week 2 of the garden. You can see how the garden looked last week here. No major changes yet, except for the peas which are growing like wildfire! The lettuces have probably doubled in size, and the brassicas are plodding along. Those cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower are always so slow. I remember getting really frustrated with them last year. It seemed to take forever for them to grow.

In terms of pests, I've already had some caterpillars on the seedlings, which I am picking off by hand. It's amazing how fast those bugs can find your plants isn't it? Something is also nipping off the leaves of my cauliflowers. I'm wondering if it's a bird that's finding its way through the cracks of our netting? This is one of the trickiest stages, as those tender seedlings are irresistible to so many things. Once they get a bit bigger and tougher, they hopefully won't be so appealing!

So how is your garden going? Have you taken any pictures I can have a sticky beak at?

Thursday, 20 March 2014

do you know what mushroom this is?

I was having a glance over my raspberries to see whether they are flowering yet (they aren't) when my nose picked up on a disgusting stench. A foul, musty, almost rotting, earthy smell was rising from the ground, and flies were buzzing everywhere around it.

When I looked closer, to try and find the source of the offending odour, I was quite shocked at what I discovered. A whole little family of amazing looking mushrooms poking their heads through the soil. Sticky, honeycombed, orangey brown tops with fancy, lacy underskirts. So pretty, but goodness what a smell!

I'm not 100% percent sure, but after lots of googling and question asking (a big thanks to all those on instagram who helped me out), I'm wondering if they are Stinkhorns? It would certainly be an appropriate name for them.

Now I'm thinking about it,  I've seen these funny little egg shaped fungi all around the place recently. I'm wondering if they are just immature versions of the same thing? If they are it's a bumper year for these little fellas.

Have you seen these before? Are they stinkhorns? If you know what they are, please do share!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

ten things i love about living in the country

My internet connection has been truly awful the last few days. Snails-pace slow. The National Broadband Network doesn't seem to be making it to our neck of the woods any time soon. Lucky country living has lots of other things going for it!

So I thought it would be fun (and a good distraction) to make a little list, of just 10 things that I love about living in the country.
1. You can see the stars. After living in the city for so long, I was beginning to forget what they looked like. They're really incredibly amazing and put on the best light show almost every night. It never gets old.

2. The view of our pretty green hills.

3. You always wave to your neighbours when you drive down the road. It would be rude not to.

4. Farmers tend to have piles of old stuff around their properties. Some of that stuff is ridiculously awesome (and rusted).

5. The noise from my "neighbours" comes from cows mooing, crickets chirping, frogs croaking and cicadas ringing.

6. The prettiest afternoon walks ever.

7. Small town community events. Market days, festivals and fairs where they still have three legged races and jumping castles for the kids.

8. Big sheds. For storing all my preserving gear and gardening stuff.

9. Elderly neighbours who drive 30kms an hour down the road. No one gets cross at them for it or honks them. Instead they wave or pull over for a chat.

10. Servos that still fill your car up with petrol for you, while you wait in the car. Yes really!

Monday, 17 March 2014

cloth nappies (diapers) - 6 years and still using them!

Something I get asked about all the time is my cloth nappies. I'm onto my 3rd baby in nappies now, so I guess I've changed my fair share of them. When I was pregnant the first time around I read everything I could get my hands on about cloth nappies (or cloth diapers, depending on where you live).

I knew I wanted to use cloth nappies, but had no idea what type. I didn't know anyone in real life who was using them to ask for advice. Most people thought I was a bit crackers for wanting to go down the cloth route.

There are so many different types of nappies out there. It's not just your traditional terry squares anymore. There are prefolds, all-in-ones, pockets, fitteds with separate covers, sized or one size fits most, natural fibres or synthetics, snaps or velcro. It's more than a bit confusing for someone just starting out! One thing I did learn, is that largely it comes down to personal choice. Some will only want to use natural fibres, some will just want the easiest care nappies. It's about deciding what works for you (and your baby of course!) No choice is wrong. It's up to you what you want to use.

When I was deciding what type of nappies to go with I based my decisions on a few factors. I knew they would have to be easy care, or I would quit using them. I also didn't want loads of different sizes to keep track of, as it would become too much for me to manage. Price was also a consideration. I wanted them to be as economical as possible and give the same kind of convenience that disposables offer. The more convenient they are to use, the more likely it was I would use them.

For me, the answer was a one-sized-fits-most pocket nappy, with a velcro fastening. The velcro is Dad friendly and the one sized nappy meant I didn't need all those nappies in different sizes (which end up taking up quite a bit of space). I liked the idea of the pocket nappy over an All In One (AIO) as you can separate the parts and get the nappy really clean when washing it. AIO's are the closest thing to a disposable nappy, but I was worried about getting them really clean and how long they would take to dry with all those layers.

Being someone who can sew, I decided to make my own. It's by far and away the cheapest way to get a good stash of nappies. The thing about making them yourself is you can buy the very best materials and they still work out amazingly cheap to make! I drafted my own pattern and bought some fabrics and got to work. It took me a few drafts, but I finally came up with something I was really happy with! Mine have a PUL outer and a suedecloth inner, which stays dry next to the baby's skin, minimising rashes. I decided on suedecloth because of our warm climate. I didn't want any excess sweating going on down there causing problems. It also doesn't pill and stays new looking for years.

I stuff the nappies with microfibre inserts, which keeps them nice and thin. I originally had some hemp inserts, but they started to disintegrate after a lot of use. The microfibres still look good after hundreds of washings.

Amazingly my nappies are still going strong on baby number 3! Although they have needed the elastic to be replaced once (in almost 6 years of use). These nappies fit from newborn age up until toilet training and have genuinely been a one-sized nappy for us. They have been probably the most useful thing I have ever made and have saved us a whole lot of money. They paid for themselves within 3 months of using them with my first baby! Within the first year of using them, the money saved was enough to buy an industrial snap press and an overlocker (serger).

If you're wondering when the biggest savings be made when using cloth nappies? I'd say definitely in the first year! That is when babies go through the most nappies. In the first few months, one of my bubs went through up to 20 nappy changes a day. That's a lot of $$ if you are buying disposables. Another thing I made was our wipes. Just flannel squares that were overlocked around the outside. So more savings there as well.

Having said all that, there have been times when I've used the odd disposable nappy, especially when travelling or when our water tanks have run dry. But, I do think using cloth nappies even part time, can save you some money if that's what you are hoping to do.

Cloth really isn't difficult to use, just a couple of extra loads of washing a week. I'll do a separate post another time, about the washing because there are some different options.

OK that's probably enough nappy talk for today. If anyone has any questions, I'd be more than happy to answer them in the comments!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

did you see the moon this morning?

The moon was going to bed, just as the sun was rising. Wasn't it amazing?

clean slate

Well, the garden is finally in! I'm not sure there's any nicer place to be on a beautiful autumn afternoon than out in the garden, digging your hands in the soil. There's nothing like being out there when the heat of the sun has dropped to a warm glow. I've spent a bit of time over the last couple of days, pottering around getting everything into its place.

The beds were topped up with lots of composty goodness, along with a decent amount of manure and blood and bone. The plants have been tucked into their little beds, where I hope they'll be happy for the next few months, growing and plumping themselves up.

I've replanted the leeks which I direct seeded into the garden a couple of months ago. The garlic bulbs have also gone in. I'm growing the same variety as I did last year, from some of our saved crop. I have no idea what variety it is. It was given to me by a local farmer a couple of years ago and it grows well in our climate. They are lovely, big, white cloves. Great for peeling and eating.

I'm also madly trying to save some strawberry runners. They've gone mad in the last few weeks putting out runners. So I've filled a few pots with soil alongside the raised beds to allow the new little plants to take root in them. In a few weeks, those runners will be ready to plant out into a new bed. In our subtropical climate, the fresh plants tend to give the biggest crop of strawberries, so I'll try and keep as many runners as I can.

Amazingly those little pea seeds I planted earlier in the week are already sprouting, and it looks like I've had a really good germination rate. It's a little pea sprout forest out there. I might replant some of the excess seedlings along the fence. I'm hoping for a bumper crop of peas this year!

And here it is, in all its bareness, the beginnings of the autumn garden. I love that feeling of a brand new garden. When it's all full of possibility, a clean slate.

Now comes the really fun part. Watching it grow!

Tell me, how's your garden going? Are you getting your seeds out yet?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

a tale of two teapots

To be perfectly honest I had no intention of bringing these teapots home. On a recent op-shopping trip, I was actually out looking for something else. But these pretty little teapots caught my eye as they sat in the corner of the room. I looked them over and thought about how lovely they were, but reminded myself about my teapots at home.

Teapots were not what I was hoping to find that day. So I put them down and continued on my search. But I was drawn back to them and couldn't help but pick them up again and turn them over in my hands. And that's when I saw it. A little note stuck to the bottom of one of the teapots that read, For my granddaughter Alix.

I felt my breath catch in my throat, a heavy sigh in my chest. Needless to say, I held onto those two gorgeous little teapots determined they would not be left there on the shelf.

I'm not exactly sure what the story of these two little teapots is, but one thing I do know, at some point these teapots were well loved. The blue flowers pot has scratching over the base, which makes me think it was perhaps the favourite day to day teapot. The wildflower pot is almost like new, perhaps a special occasion teapot, only brought out when guests were around? Or maybe a treasured gift that sat in the cabinet on display? What is certain though is a grandmother considered them worthy of passing down, of cherishing for years to come. I do hope they've come to live at the right place.

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